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An Urgent Plea to All Young Men

This year, implant my dear little niece turns ten. Naturally, medical she’s the finest child to ever wear an iPod and, naturally, her birth was that year’s signature event. Or, it was for a happy few days. Petra was born in Texas on a Wednesday afternoon; she wasn’t a week old when two Boeing aircraft ripped the US to pieces.

Like countless others, I watched the television with an unfamiliar fixity. In the hours after the strike, we were slammed by journalism’s shrapnel. The Pentagon had vanished. Chicago’s Sears Tower was gone. What? The telephone in Dallas was resolutely busy, so I watched and watched hoping only to see no flicker of the Lone Star State.

For hours, I watched the television for its dwindling function, news. I’d never been personally struck by a real need for this immediacy. But, my partner, my in-laws and an infant whom I’d yet to meet were so very far away. With telephone lines jammed, the TV offered my only proximity to family. The TV, so faithful in its focus on disaster, offered warmth.

It cooled, I found, very quickly.

Flight 175 crashed into the World Trade Center again and again and again. When I saw the image, live, for the first time, it was a fiery, catastrophic hit. When I saw it the second time, it had acquired the dimensions and the qualities of cinema. When I saw it a third time, it had an eerily soothing impact. Every time we watched the blow, it softened.

In processing this act of unspeakable violence, television news was doing its strange work. It had frozen death into a memory. Thanks to instant replay, we’d already begun to forget.

Whatever the news, it has become television’s job to process it in a now familiar routine. First, catastrophe happens. Then, the catastrophe becomes a story. Finally, and quickly, the story becomes a dinosaur; an immense and frozen relic of a terrifying past.

When I spoke with my partner a few hours after impact, we each spoke of the “filmic” end of Flight 175. We weren’t trying to be arseholes but both of us had imagined American heroes emerging from the rubble; my money was on Nicolas Cage.

It was not as though we were not colossally frightened. It was not as though we didn’t go on to divide a week’s wages between the Red Crescent and the Red Cross. And it’s certainly not as though we failed to cry for the planet’s greatest city, New York, New York.

It’s just that television had by then acquired the undertaker’s habit of draining, “the tragedy as it unfolds” of all its blood.

This week, I have counted the phrase “the tragedy as it unfolds” a hundred times. I have seen images of heartbreak that serve no purpose higher than melodrama. To see orphaned, bloody babies plucked from refuse or traumatized adults looking for their pets or children bawling in abject, awful confusion does nothing for the viewer but enhance his faculty to disconnect.

A television image viewed has become an image stored in the cryogenic vaults of our memory. Stuck like glue by a poison adhesive to “tragedy as it unfolds” we watch and watch. We wait for television to ignite our warmth. Instead, it freezes our innards.

At best, we can hope to be disturbed by the images from Japan. At worst, we fear we might become insensible.

Life, of course, is grim and tragedy is manifold. Some “compassion fatigue” is expected with a disaster of the scale of 9/11 or Japan’s quakes. But, television’s viciously pornographic depiction of misery is not an inevitable part of life. For the sake of goodness, give me info-graphics, hard information and help-lines. Do not offer me the theft of another human’s grief.

Until television restores what it has stolen, we can begin to repay its debt ourselves. The Red Cross or the Japanese Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are standing by. As the tragedy unfolds.

This article appeared originally at Citysearch
Blame it on poor nutrition. Blame it on workplace rights for women. Hell, tooth
blame it on the Bossa Nova if it gives you any cheer. Whatever the cause, the case is clear: the Generation X man couldn’t find his balls with both hands and a GPS.

Of course, women of the same middle-age range aren’t much better at locating their own sexual core. But, we’ll get to that, briefly, in a minute. Our primary business now is to deliver you, Gen X’s younger brother, from castration. The future of your gender and the future of the planet rest on you wresting back control of your cods.

There are two things a true lady never reveals in company. Well, three if we include the name of her hot-strip waxer. These are (a) her age and (b) her bedroom tastes. For the sake of this urgent manifesto to young, hard men, I’m going to break this rule. Bear with me.

First, I am 41. Second, I am mostly a lezzer. Considered alone, these are the sort of tedious facts you could do very well without learning. In the context of an argument against the character of middle-aged men, however, they are crucial; they qualify me to talk directly to the topic. Permit me to explain.

When I moved in with my girlfriend some years ago, my mother set down her switchblade and gin to shriek to the heavens, “Why? Why? Was it something I’ve done?”. I reassured her that she’d done nothing to endorse pussy whatsoever; in fact, she’d done her level best to promote a burning fear. The reason I’d installed a woman in my bed was due chiefly to the shittiness of my gentlemen age-mates.

(Of course, that my girlfriend has the kind of pop-up arse on which you could rest a TV-dinner didn’t hurt. But mum was better off not learning this detail.)

There is a reason that women of my age transformed into cougars, lezzers and chronically dissatisfied Sarah Jessica Parkers in such great numbers. It is not down to an aversion for cock; au contraire, there is little that remains as enticing to me as the thought of a capable penis attached to a capable man. It is down to the softening, both literal and figurative, of the contemporary middle-aged bloke.

When I was in my twenties, I searched the pubs, clubs and organic food providers of the city for a man whose masculinity took the form I’d long admired. This was not, to be clear, an arrogant quest. There are those Jessica Parkers who strap on their eight-inch Louboutins and go out into the night with a laundry-list that describes the Ideal Man. I never punch above my weight and was not out to find some Franco whose net-worth and talent were only outdone by his cock size. Masculinity is not about chiselled perfection; it had more to do, I’d always thought, with an imperfect, internal struggle.

The masculinity I crave, and the masculinity lost by my age-mates, sees aggression tempered by reason; desire tempered by charm. I’d always thought of masculinity as a blistering blend of swagger with humility; of the skill to lead with the ability to concede. Personally, I couldn’t give a fuck if a bloke opens a door for a woman. More important was the likelihood that he’d open his eyes to his own potential.

Without wishing to come off like a Boner-Killing Feminist, and this is an especial risk for lezzers, I suggest that the potential of men to succeed in the wider world still exceeds that of his sisters. Professionally, politically and economically, men retain a clear lead. Now, this is just a statement of fact and not a Boner-Killing whine. And I mention it only because, some time in the nineties, the men of my generation seemed to lose sight of their relative privilege. All they could see was the threat to its decline.

I saw the best cocks of my generation destroyed by Pearl Jam, skunk weed and the mortal fear that women had no immediate need of their company. And this, of course, was utter hooey. Whether it’s primal or social, our need for a forceful masculine energy is great. Women are inspired and improved by the ambition, single-mindedness and hunger of men. It was awful to see masculinity draped in flannel shirts and doused in self-doubt; a bong strapped to its nose and a prescription for Zoloft in its wallet.

By the time I was thirty, I thought things might have improved. My generation of men began to reproduce. There is nothing, surely, like the authority of semen to reactivate an inert man-power.

Instead, these guys migrated their old Pearl Jam CDs to iPod and continued to give up the good of their gender. Instead of reclaiming his chivalry, his gonads and his drive he bought a fucking Bugaboo ergonomic pram and became fatter, softer and more feminized than a suburban choir singing the songs of Michael Bublé.

Nearly every straight man of my age and acquaintance allows his nuts to be crushed and kept in a jar in the kitchen by a woman who, it must be said, is as much at odds with her place in the scheme of things as her husband. She must be. There’s no other way to explain the persistence of stupid fucking phrases like, “You go girl” in the culture.

Together, my generation of men and women disposed much that was wonderful about masculine identity. The women were weaned at the poison teat of Sex and the City and the men became husks who crammed their mouths with erectile dysfunction medication instead of beef carpaccio.

And so, it’s up to you, Gen Y, to save the planet man. It’s your job to ignore the example of these milquetoasts; to become less Pearl Jam and a fuckload more Kanye and to howl for the re-emergence of a manhood that owes less to pharmaceutical companies and much more to a tradition of bravery and progress and good, consensual fucking.

This article was initially published in FHM Magazine

13 Responses to “An Urgent Plea to All Young Men”

  1. Sami says:

    I have very little to remark upon this article directly, what with being a thirty-year-old woman and all.

    This comment is mostly to sigh wistfully on behalf of myself, somewhere around the mid-to-late nineties. I was a troubled teenager whose life was going through some comprehensive and complicated difficulties even *before* you factor in the whole teenage angst thing.

    My solace and comfort was the Ladies’ Lounge with you and Judith Lucy. Weekday afternoons, my first fragmented notions of how to navigate the treacherous shoals of adult womanhood coalesced to the sound of your voices.

    Also, I had a *giant* crush on you.

    My teenage self would have swooned at the very thought that you might not be resolutely heterosexual.

    Ah, well.

    On the bright side, setting aside the bit where authorial intent is totally dead (if I recall correctly, a remark about Roland Barthes getting run down by a truck goes here – possibly in Paris, it’s been a while), it puts a new twist on at least one chapter of Everything’s Fucked.

    • Helen Razer says:

      I’m so sorry about everything, Sami. Particularly the crush. I do hope I wasn’t responsible for your gluten sensitivity. BTW and as I am sick of talking about effing gender, this is where you buy a tortilla press and here is your delicious masa. Finally, this tip to pop plastic (sandwich bags will do) between the leaves of the press is genius and turned my all-corn tortillas from sad little strips of papyrus into a vision I have considered posting on my facebook page.

  2. Carla says:

    I’ve give up on men entirely. I’m 31 and most of the ‘men’ my age are either still living at home, smoking bongs, finishing their phd and have never had a job or have the emotional maturity of an 8 year old (dont even get me started on their sexual skills)… I have this whole theory of the sons of feminists… or even psuedo feminists… who realised they could leave their husbands… and then coddled their sons to within an inch of their lives out of guilt.. where asthte daughters were told by a spindly pointed drunk finger “learn how to take care of yourself BECAUSE YOU CANT DEPEND ON MEN TO NOT BE USELESS BUMS”.. so its a generation of women who are self sufficient.. educated.. and pretty cool.. (if not almost sociopathic in their independance and baby batter misile seeking ways) and men who are just… limp… literally.. a generation of men raised on porn… who have zero concept of eroticism…

    lesbos all the way!

  3. XYGenXMember says:

    I’m 41 never married, never had a long-term girlfriend really, heterosexual with high libido; pretty good looking (at least going by women usually accepting my first drink/date offers), 6 1, fit, PhD, reasonably happy, nice to my Mum (and no I don’t live at home having bought and sold two properties) and probably have a couple of “dark edges” as well if this sounds too bland or nice. In short, I’m a fucking catch.

    Over the past decade I reckon I’ve dated over 200 women. Not one has been marriage material. Not one. From this I could conclude that Oz Gen X women are some of the most whiny, self-obsessed, selfish, demanding, shallow, picky, precious, social groupings on the planet. In fact, in some of my more pissed off moments, I admit, I do. But before too long what sinks in is the ridiculousness of this typecasting.

    Some of my old friend’s wives don’t seem to be like this, nor do several of my hitched female friends. Hmm maybe I’m not looking in the right places maybe I’m not quite the catch I’d imagined maybe I should change a little – not live so much in my head, stop being so rational, so argumentative, be less picky myself, tone back the save-the-world work obsessiveness maybe but obviously not too much lest some twining pinkies get pointed my way.

    For all these limp-wrested accusations Helen, here’s a thought – isn’t turning into a muff mauler the ultimate act of piss-weak surrender?

    Jesus, if this is a new fad, think about how much harder its going to make it for us cock-strutters?

    Ah well, if I can just locate my cojones, I’m heading out tonight to find the girl of my dreams. To instead give up, moan about my chances, or even write a blog post castigating half the population – now *that* would be being a pussy.

  4. Helen Razer says:

    Hi XYGenXMember and thank you so much for your spirited appraisal. I fear you’ve misread what was intended as humour as misandrony. As I’ve been, I think, at pains to point out, I quite like men. Particularly those who can produce their balls as you have so convincingly done.
    Actually, you’re not at all the object of my critique here in what was, after all, intended to be only a comic look at Gen X; both men and women. The women of our age range (I, too, am 41) are hardly stars being derided as Sarah Jessica Parkers and ball-crushers in my review. And the particular kind of Gen X man upheld as a negative example is clearly married and imprisoned by our lady peers; which you are not. Honestly, if we spoke in greater detail about your decision not to marry any one of my harrowing female age-mates, I think we’d find a great deal of common ground. I dislike, very much, what I perceive as the wretched self-involvement of Gen X women and I am disapproving, as I think is plain, of their habit of crushing the nuts of their mates.
    So, this is hardly a critique of one half of the world’s population. I loathe this sort of sexist claptrap Rather, it is a brief, faintly satirical and hyperbolised attempt to examine the failure of men and women of our age-range to cohabit in the spirit of mutual respect.
    I can only imagine you were very, very angry when you called my relationship an act of cowardice so I won’t rejoin to that in detail except to say: plainly I am having a larf . If I was an actual man-hater, I’d hardly say, “I only embrace pussy in the absence of cock” would I?
    Finally, you must have mistaken me for Candace Bushnell. At NO POINT do I prescribe marriage or finding the girl of one’s dreams as an antidote to anything. I am, in fact, terribly queer and find the idea of long-term and institutionalized monogamy disturbing.
    It’s a shame you seem to be so cross with my gags because I actually enjoy very much talking to people of all genders about what the fuck went wrong with the male-female couplings of my generation and we might have enjoyed the conversation.

  5. XYGenXMember says:

    No, sorry I think there was a healthy dose of misandry in your post and that it is a little rich to now claim it was just humour or hyperbole even if this is part of your trademark schtick. Colour me imperceptive if it’s not the case but far from being a satire or whimsical piece, it did seem to be a cry from the heart about your own experiences of finding a man and an eloquent analysis/lament of the state of the modern male-female relationship. This also comes across in your reply. To say otherwise seems a little disingenuous to me.

    There seems to be a bit of seepage into the culture of casting men as utterly hopeless or feckless. Whether it is the “mere male” section in Reader’s Digests or TV advertisements.

    Try replacing GenX Men in your article with Aborigines (or women) and see how it reads. I’m at one level reluctant to point this out as male/female foibles are often kind of interesting and yes also funny. They’ve also been part of gossiping women since the days of the cave but really, the stereotypes in this piece are just a bit tired. Satirical they can be, funny when done well perhaps, but I’m not sure that, over time, it doesn’t have a corrosive effect. Or maybe I should just lighten up?

    Although then again didn’t a certain review of an international comic take exception to similar, tired old M-F bleakness?

    This also smacks of a a bit of Bolt-like dog-whistling and then playing innocent when the dogs come running – Ok, I am one of the dogs biting but was Carla just being satirical or engaging in hyperbole as well?

    The biggest disappointment with women of my vintage is this (warning satirical-free and hypocritical stereotyping coming up): their sheer lack of feistiness. Instinctively you’d think feminism would have bought this bubbling to the surface but my experience has been the exact opposite. Women expect not just to have more opportunity (good) but to have it completely on their own terms (not so good).

    Part of being feisty is surely being able to put up with some shit; not the overt passive-aggressiveness that seems to be the modern women. If a man doesn’t pander to a woman’s every whim, is ever laddish, resorts to his cave or mates then it seems this is conflated with being a Neanderthal who just doesn’t get equal opportunity and how it extends to women being able to completely mould their partner’s behaviour.

    Those who refuse to be so moulded are then dismissed as losers/bong-smokers/Peter Pans/wimps/misogynists and/or overlooked as keepers.

    Your imagining about my anger at the “cowardice” of your relationships is misplaced as was my own depiction. I’m sorry. It’s why I’ll never be on twitter – I’m sure your allrounder capabilities means that she’s far more than a fall-back (or fall-front?) position. I get angry with this country’s political discourse, I get angry at Syrian/Libyan/Chinese censorship, I get angry at US wikileaks attacks – trust me, I’m not going to get angry at your adventures in Tasmanian cartography. Curious perhaps, ok maybe even to a unhealthily nosy degree (- so what happens when you |_-| …) but angry, no.

    Ah the misinterpretations of blog comments! The point of “going out to find the girl of my dreams” – I’m now maybe a little embarrassed to admit given it is clearly too preposterous to be anything other than satirical – was quite genuine. You may find long-term monogamy disturbing – recently, I seem to be hanging out for it. And I do indeed hope it is an antidote to a certain, closer to home, self-obsession – irony noted.

    And finally do you you know what is really weird – is how much I felt the need to stick up for us Gen X cocks following your rant. You go fella – hear us Roar. All this relationship, sociological analysis – Shit, maybe it is true – I am turning into a fucking woman. I need to stop and get back to my system-building and shaggin attempts. I’m outa here but keep up the great writing!
    R

    • Helen Razer says:

      This piece has nothing to do with the Hilarious Differences Between Men and Women. Rather, it is quite explicitly about the eclipse of those differences by a tepid, sexless generational satellite. It has as much in common with the, “Oh, Men. Aren’t they bumbling?” sidebars of the feminine press as you do with Deepak Chopra. A man, it must be said, whom I do not admire greatly. But, at least he would refrain from charging me with “piss weak surrender”. Perhaps you were striving to be funny, here. However, it just comes across as mean-spirited.
      As for the Ripped From Quadrant charge that by replacing Oppressed Minority X with Oppressed Minority Y one can view the flagrant hypocrisy that underscores any lefitst act of writing. Well. Bollocks, frankly. I think it’s perfectly acceptable and not necessarily “corrosive” to talk about the shortcomings of a generation of people; not a people.
      I trust that this exchange betrays sufficient “feistiness”; now, there’s a gendered concept if ever I met one.

  6. Sami says:

    That tip for the plastic is bloody brilliant! I foresee salvation from own papyrus history. (Although I’ve had some success with turning everything into strips and frying those up to crispness and using those as sort of dipping things.)

    I blame the gluten sensitivity on my coeliac friend – I didn’t know about it until I shared every meal with her for about three days, felt strangely amazing, and then noticably queasy when I next ate gluten.

    About all you can be blamed for is my weakness for people with a gift for complex eloquence, which isn’t really a bad thing.

    And with apologies for returning to a topic of gender: XYGenXMember, you seem a little defensive. If you’re so all-fired cocktastically Not Like That, why are you so pissy about the suggestion that other men are? If you had the balls you so strenuously claim, wouldn’t you know that shit was beneath you?

  7. Helen Razer says:

    cocktastically

  8. Whatever Again for Consistency says:

    Don’t be such an apologist, Helen. The dude’s all fired up to go out and prove his masculinity by rooting on chicks. This is not the way. Throw masculinity out with the bathwater and stamp and spit on the dregs of femininity. So long as there are such things as free floating cods, the gender of the cod provider ought not matter. Women do testicular fortitude really quite well.

    • Helen Razer says:

      You have the royal shits with me, don’t you, Whatever Again?
      It’s all very well-and-good to champion a genderless future. However, I see no harm in exploring that which is good about masculinity and femininity. I don’t think this is apologism; rather it is a little bit of a look at the human condition. While we await the revolution.

  9. Ardella Flavin says:

    I read your blog all the time.. Why do you not have a twitter ?!

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